As angry protesters across the nation denounced Arizona’s anti-immigrant law on Saturday, the 26,000-member American Educational Research Association, meeting in Denver, announced that it would not hold any meetings in the state until the law was repealed. The law requires local police to demand that anyone who looks suspicious prove that they are in the country legally. A third of Arizona’s population is Hispanic and two-thirds of that group was born in the U.S. AERA’s governing council has in the past held winter meetings and other scholarly gatherings in Arizona.
Kris Gutierrez, a University of Colorado, Boulder professor who is the organization’s president-elect and a native of Arizona, said “it’s possible that if we held meetings there and I didn’t have my license with me, I could be stopped and questioned.” Gutierrez said surveys of Hispanics conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center have documented a “real culture of fear of racial profiling and being deported” even before the law was passed. She said she was concerned the law will discourage parents from going to their children’s schools and being involved in their education.
Angela Valenzuela, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said at a press conference that “we are here today to bring light to the importance of civil rights and human rights.” She said children will be “among the most harmed by this legislation,” which will add to their “sense of insecurity.” Patricia Gandara, a UCLA professor who is co-director of The Civil Rights Project, said the law was already disrupting a variety of research projects in Hispanic communities along the border and would deter Mexican students from enrolling legally in U.S. colleges and universities. “I’m very concerned that Arizona is turning into the new apartheid South.”